Detroit files federal lawsuit challenging 2021 U.S. census population estimate, alleges undercount

DETROIT – The City of Detroit has filed a lawsuit claiming US Census Bureau 2021 population estimate shortened the city’s population by tens of thousands.

The city says there are many sources of data that show the city’s population is growing despite the census recording population losses.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Census Bureau violated its own policies when it canceled its challenge program. The complaint also said the Census Bureau declined to review any evidence of undercount provided by the city or share how it reached its estimate.

If the city is right and there was an undercount, it could cost Detroit millions of dollars in federal funding, according to a news release.

Lily: Detroit is the biggest city to challenge 2020 census numbers

The lawsuit focuses on the 2021 estimate, which is based on the 2020 decennial census that the city also disputed. The 2021 estimate, released in May, showed an additional loss of more than 7,000 residents.

“The Census Bureau used a formula to estimate Detroit’s population that showed the city lost more than 7,000 residents in just one year,” Mayor Duggan said. “Any formula claiming that the city continues to lose population defies facts and common sense, given the thousands of newly built and renovated homes in the city, as well as the increase in residential connections to public services. Activity like this doesn’t happen when more people leave town than move in.

Detroit is asking the Census Bureau to share how it calculated population numbers.

Detroit argues that the evidence they obtained regarding U.S. Postal Service delivery records, DTE Energy account data, Detroit Department of Water and Sewer records, and Detroit occupancy data Land Bank Authority show Detroit gained tens of thousands of residents between 2020 and 2021 estimate.

“So while a federal agency claims Detroit has lost population, another delivers mail to more addresses, DTE delivers power to more Detroiters, and DWSD serves more accounts. The Bureau declines to consider this evidence,” the press release reads.

The Census Bureau had an administrative procedure for cities to challenge errors in annual population estimates, but it was canceled for 2022 and will not resume until 2023.

When the city requested the calculations underlying the 2021 estimate (first step in the dispute process), it was denied within hours, leaving Detroit unable to administratively correct the 2021 undercount,” the statement read. Press.

The city alleges that the Census Bureau violated federal administrative law by not allowing the annual estimates to be challenged.

Lily: 2020 Census data and map: Michigan population change by county since 2010

“The Census Bureau’s failure to follow its own program rules and the conclusive evidence that Detroit’s population grew between 2020 and 2021 clearly warrants a court ordering the Bureau to correct the 2021 undercount so that Detroit residents can get their fair share of federal funds,” said Detroit legal counsel Conrad Mallett.

According to the press release, the Census Bureau previously acknowledged that the 2020 census underestimated the country’s black population by 3.30% and the Hispanic population by 4.99%. City officials said Detroit has a combined black and Hispanic population of more than 84%.

“That equates to an undercount of more than 20,000 Detroiters. Yet in its 2021 city population estimate released in May 2022, rather than correcting this admitted error, the Bureau reduced the population by an additional 7,150 people,” the press release reads.

“The census undercount has alarming real-world consequences that deprive cities like Detroit of their fair and predicted share of critical funding for schools, hospitals, affordable housing, and more,” the U.S. Representative said. Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14). “If the census isn’t accurate, then the annual population numbers that guide hundreds of billions of dollars in federal assistance to communities and families aren’t accurate either,” Rep. Lawrence added. “Cities must have a meaningful way to challenge their annual estimates. That’s why, as vice-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I was able to push forward language on the Census Bureau’s funding bill for the coming fiscal year, which directs the bureau to expand the reach of the Population Estimates Challenge Program so that cities across the country have a real chance of improving the accuracy of their annual numbers. I thank Mayor Duggan for his leadership and efforts to find a cure for the undercount. We are Detroit and we are not sitting on the sidelines. We will rise and fight.

See the lawsuit below:

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